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Sequoyah Country Club Review and Playing Notes
25 Jul 2012
by Pete Wlodkowski of amateurgolf.com

see also: Sequoyah Country Club, All Course Reviews

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- The flagstick is over the crest of the hill<br>under the tall pines

I’ve lived in Carlsbad for more than 10 years, but I still miss the little gems of Bay Area golf, especially my former home club – Sequoyah Country Club of Oakland. With the USGA Mid Amateur qualifying set to be played at this little slice of history, I figured it was time to draft a review and a few playing notes. I won the Club Championship there in 2000 and 2001, and although the format was match play I figure I’ve got hundreds of rounds under my belt there and should be able to provide you a little “local knowledge.”

So let’s start with the big picture. Sequoyah is about to turn 100 in 2013. It’s one of the 10 original clubs in the NCGA. At 6000 yards, par 70, it seems short, but I bet 70 makes it into the Mid-Am easily. I hope to give you a few positive ideas – if you really care about making it you will play what I consider a mandatory practice round.

Before we talk about scoring let me get one thing out of the way. The club (as you might guess from its spelling) isn’t named for the tree. It’s named for Chief Sequoyah of the Cherokee Nation, who created a syllabary that made reading and writing in Cherokee possible. But don’t worry, you’ll find a few Sequoias of the redwood variety here. (Those behind the par-3 14th are particularly unforgettable.)

So what’s the secret to scoring at Sequoyah?

The primary answer lies in the size, speed, and slope of the greens. Assuming you can keep your tee ball in play, you will seldom face long approach shots, but you’re going to need to control your distance and spin to have realistic birdie chances from below, or close to, the hole.  (Both would be really nice!)

An equally important secret to Sequoyah is scoring on the par-3s. I used to find it frustrating that the only mid/long iron shots I would typically hit into greens at Sequoyah were on these holes, but if you are a strong iron player, this is the place to take advantage of it.

On the par-4s and 5s, the decision on what to hit off of each tee is of course up to you and what suits your game. Play a practice round! The longer you are the more you can keep the driver in your bag. For my “hole by hole” I’m going to start with those holes, giving you a quick strategy on each before closing with my notes on Sequoyah's five awesome par-3s.

No. 1 – “Ridge” – 311 yards, Par 4
Other than being the first hole on the course, it’s the easiest par-4. I used to love to rip a driver at the right side of the green (there is some light rough to bail out into) but you could easily play a fairway wood to the top of the hill and have a 75 yard shot in. Try both in a practice round to see what suits your eye. If the greens are firm, be cautious on where you land your approach.

No. 3 – “Ananias” – 400 yards, Par 4
No reason to hit driver here if you are long, but if you don’t hit it 270 plus I would take driver up the left side. Why? If you’re behind 150 yards you could have a blind shot into this small, well bunkered green.

No. 4 – “South Pole” – 374 yards, Par 4

An obvious layup off the tee, using a mid/long iron or hybrid depending on your length, but keep it down the left side to avoid a large pine. The uphill approach requires ½ club more; again it’s something you need a practice round to figure out. The back right pin can be brutal.

No. 6 – “Long Tom” – 528 yards, Par 5

Hit a driver or 3-wood down the left side, a little cut for the right hander would be perfect. If you do get caught up on the right, it’s best to be smart and get down the fairway before wasting time bouncing around the huge Eucalyptus trees. Not reachable in two for most players, so give yourself a reasonable yardage and wedge in for a birdie putt.

No. 7 – “Corner” – 329 yards, Par 4

This will be the tightest hole on the front nine, take a hybrid or three wood down the left center and you will have a nice chance to attack the elevated green.

No. 8 – “Rubicon” – 389 yards, Par 4

If the tee is back at the highest point, most players can hit driver without going past the crest of the hill and into the barranca that fronts the green. But if the tee is up, almost everyone should hit something in the 230-240 yard range to stay back of the barranca, giving 150 or less into the green. NOTE: This is a green to attack cautiously. I have had 6 foot putts from above the hole that were either ‘make or run 20 feet past and off the green’ – also this hole is a great example of one of the ways to play Sequoyah smart. If you are out of position, like in a bunker above the pin, don’t be a hero and try to hit the perfect shot, dribbling over the lip and releasing to the hole. Give yourself an uphill putt for par, and take bogey at the worst. It took me a while to figure that out…

No. 9 – “Half Way” – 348 yards, Par 4
Hit an iron or hybrid into the fairway, and you’ll still only have a wedge into this green. Especially if the pin is back, be smart with your approach. The hedges and parking lot long aren’t good. I am pretty sure the driving range, to the left of the tee, is IN bounds, but check your local rules. Playing from there actually isn’t that bad.

No. 10 – “Saddle” – 380 yards, Par 4

Here is a hole that requires you to pick a club and target and commit. Anything right tends to drift towards a hazard and even if it’s safe you will have a tough shot. Unless it’s super windy (as in the wind off the bay into your face) I would hit a fairway metal to the bottom of the hill and approach the elevated green with a short iron. As with the drive, check the wind.

No. 11 – “The Burn” – 445 yards, Par 4

Most players should hit driver on the longest of Sequoyah’s par-4s. Similar to the 10th, you’ll want to keep it up the left side. You can’t control what you do with every shot, and if you DO find yourself in the trees on the right think twice about being superman, especially if your round is ok.  Punch out short of the stream that fronts the green. This green can run pretty fast and firm.

No. 13 – “Dome” – 337 yards, Par 4
Hitting out of a chute to a strategically bunkered fairway requires you to pick a spot and know your distance. Many players can clear the bunkers and have a short pitch shot in to this longish green, depending on the wind.

NOTE: As I’m “mentally playing” Sequoyah, I’m wondering if it was really this easy? The answer of course is no. I’m thinking of my best shots, not the ones that caught a limb off the tee, or the punch-outs that led to disaster. The days when bogey was my highest score I seemed to always score well, because there are many birdie chances at good-ole Sequoyah. Choose power over strategy, and beware the potential outcome.

No. 15 – “Come Back” – 330 yards, Par 4
This was always my favorite driving hole on the course, even though you don’t really “need” it. There is plenty of room, and the uphill fairway suited my eye so well that I would just let it go here and most often find the fairway. The 75 yard approach to a semi-blind green is a little tricky, but I have made three eagles here (once on the fly) so I know you can make birdie. Give yourself an uphill putt, over isn’t good.

No. 16 – “The Pond” – 482 yards, Par 5
Some players will get to this hole with their round in questionable status and try to get home in two, but a veteran member gave me my best advice here. Just play it as a three shot hole. Every time. It’s not that the driving area is overly tight; it’s that the second shot (even if you get it inside of 200 yards) is completely blind with a pond in front and a super-tricky green. Much better to lay up to 100 yards, see where the pin is and wedge in.

No. 18 – “Styx” – 450 yards, Par 5
“The friendliest par-5 in golf.” That’s what I used to call No. 18 (what’s not to like about a 450 yard par-5?) Here you can cap off a great round with an insurance birdie if you play it smart. A left-to-right ball flight, or at least straight, works well out of the chute on a tee box that is shared with No. 4. (It’s tough to play a draw with a tower of trees guarding the right side.) Depending on your distance a solid drive could leave you 200 yards or less. (My longest drive ever left me 150… it might have hit a sprinkler head.) The green is small, and elevated, but if you’re in position it’s worth having a go. Just don’t get crazy with it because it’s o.b. way left or over the green on the driving range. If your wedge game is your strength, or you’re just out of position of the tee, avoid the cross-bunker about 50 yards from the green and lay-up, leaving an easy sand/lob wedge shot in.

PAR-3s

No. 2 – “Cleekie” – 191 yards
Check the wind, and err on the short side. The green is wide – a good shot will be rewarded however no matter where you are on this green if it’s fast you’ve got to respect the speed.

No. 5 – “Shorty” – 137 yards
A short, steeply downhill par-3 with a back- to- front sloping green; the 5th is the most important “spin control” hole on the course. One member, a scratch player, used to punch a 7-iron to take the spin off and while I wouldn’t recommend that I would recommend a punch shot or left to right ball flight. Tiger Woods would eat this hole up. You can too. Play plenty of break on this green.

No. 12 – “Potato Patch” – 172 yards

The downhill shot to a narrow green may be the easiest of the par 3’s; I think you’ll have lots of success here just picking the right club and trusting it. Watch the wind. It looks like you could throw a ball there, but the hole plays a little longer than it looks.

No. 14 – “Paradise” – 238 yards
One of the best par-3’s in the Bay Area, you’ve simply got to pick your 200-yard plus club and knock it on. I remember when I first was amazed at the new Pro-V1 when it came out in 2000; I was able to reach the putting surface with a 3-iron. I’m not sure exactly what club you will need, but I’m guessing it’s a hybrid for most players. (Do you still carry a 3-iron?) The stand of redwoods behind the green provides a stately beauty to the 14th.  Even if you bogey this hole you’ve got a short par-4 and two par-5s to close out your round.

No. 17 – “Grief” – 220 yards

Another stunner, this par-3 could be picked up and placed anywhere in the world. If he’s still alive, the German Sheppard that lives on a decked house above the tee will surely bark in your backswing. I once got into a shouting contest with him. (He laughed, I made triple.) If I was running the qualifier I would put the tee in the middle position, but if it’s back you’re hitting 200-plus yards out of a tight chute. The tee is placed towards the front, the hole plays much easier and your task is hitting a solid mid/long iron shot to the proper portion of sloping green. If the pin is on the shelf on the right, approach it with caution. Even a 20-30 footer uphill putt to that pin position would be good if your round is going well. Take par, get out.

I hope my notes help you to score better. If nothing else, take my advice and if you're serious about giving yourself a chance at Sequoyah, play a practice round before the USGA qualifying, or any competitive event.

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